As a young bride, one of my most cherished wedding gifts was a blue pottery tea set with my name on it. A daunting job was how to make that perfect cup of tea for my husband, a tea connoisseur.
Then started my immersion in the exciting world of teas, its various hues, the additives and most importantly the steeping time and the preparation technique. Knowing how to choose the right tea is just the beginning. The success of preparing that superb cup of tea comes from the mood of the individual preparing the tea and the process.
The teapot, the principal tool in the tea making process is to be treated with utmost care. It should never be washed or scrubbed with harsh chemicals, but left under running water ,rinsed thoroughly and then allowed to dry in the open ,uncovered. This helps to retain the deposit of tannin that layers the side of the tea pot slowly and enhances the flavor of the tea brewed in the pot.
The quality of water used for brewing tea is as important as the process itself. It should be pristine, fresh, odorless and preferably free from Calcium. An alternative is to use filtered water.
Water may be heated in a kettle. The sole purpose of the kettle should be limited to only warming water for tea- the water should just simmer and not boil to retain the flavor of the tea. Boiling water makes it flat and lifeless, it may harm the tea leaves and alter its flavor. This water should then be poured on the leaves placed in the warm teapot.
A thumb rule for the right amount of tea leaves to be used is approximately one teaspoon to a cup.
Steeping is the act of letting the flavor of the tea infuse into the water and connoisseurs suggest a minimum of two minutes- too long a time causes the tea to become bitter.
The semi-fermented teas need a good 3 mins to bring out the best in them. Green tea requires maybe 2-3mins for that ultimate flavor. White tea which is the purest, least processed tea, air dried and only slightly oxidized requires a steep time of 1-3 mins. Pu-erh-The Bordeaux of tea, green Chinese tea that is fermented and aged before it is pressed into cakes requires a steep time of 1-3 mins.
Tea is a fragile and precious commodity and must be stored in an airtight container away from dampness and light .A general principle to be followed for the shelf life of black tea would be a year and half year for semi fermented and green tea.
For a true tea connoisseur, it is considered a sacrilege to employ additives like milk, sugar or lemon. Perhaps for morning tea, milk maybe added, but for green tea, semi fermented teas, lighter Darjeeling tea, milk is an absolute no-no.
A slice of lemon added to tea alters the flavor and hue and it is best avoided, though one may prefer it to have with ice tea.
Adding sugar is up to individual taste and be used in black tea.
Making ice tea at home is fun, and a much healthier option in hot summers, than the coolers laden with sugar and preservatives. We can brew hot tea as normally done, chill it in the refrigerator or simply pour it in a glass filled with ice.
Another way is done by combining equal number of tea bags and equal cups of cold water in a large pitcher. It is then covered and chilled for at least four hours. Tea bags are discarded and this cold –brew iced tea, may be served with lemon slices according to one’s personal taste.
The tea can be consumed straight or on ice, even mixed with ingredients to create exciting cocktails.
Enjoy your cup of this golden elixir and live healthy.